Bonsai Cactus

I don't think I'm a bonsai tree
I dunno if I'm gently shaped by the day
A little light and a little wind and a little water
And I slowly branch in one direction
And then another
For years and decades

It seems more like I'm a cactus
Large paddle meat leaves jutting into random directions
And every once in awhile
When there's a good rain
I bloom flowers

A sudden new revelation about an idea or a thought
Something that forever changes the structure of things

And then I wait for the next rainstorm

Racecar Happiness

As a person who knows nothing about cars, I end up using them as philosophical metaphors rather often.

I've been thinking about happiness. How much am I supposed to have? How often? How constant? How persistently? How intensely? 

Earlier in life, I was often distraught that it wasn't constant. That it wasn't overflowing. And so I would go and pursue happiness. That I was some sort of bounty hunter, and I could lay traps to catch happiness.

But lately, I've grown more comfortable that it isn't constant. That there's moments of quiet to be enjoyed. Some sadness happens. Anger happens. Being lost happens, and to be okay with it. To be okay with the spectrum of feelings. 

This comes from Bob Thurman's TED Talk where he asks "when you stop having fun at a party? It's when you ask if you're having fun at the party." It also comes from, well, Pixar's "Inside Out." (The film uses the same framework that my old therapist used.)

But these thoughts also come from an old instruction manual. It was for an anonymous indy car videogame for the Sega Genesis. Back when I was 3-4-5 (I forget the details), I was reading the manual on how to play the game. (Yeah, I was that sort of kid.) And I remember there was a section that talked about acceleration, braking, and traction. 

That the car had a total output of power, and you had to choose how to split that power among those three things. You can put it all into acceleration, but then you have no braking and no traction. You can brake, but (obviously) no acceleration and traction. And so forth.

So when you enter a sharp turn, you have to get traction or you'll fly off. So you have to let up on acceleration and braking. There's no extra magical output. It's a compromise of the three things. That boggled my young mind. I just wanted to go fast all the time. To brake was to lose.

And so I kept flying off the track.

I'm learning to balance the three more these days. No more Sega Genesis.

Just life.

Ghosts

The past handful of years, it's been about zombies. Zombie this, zombie that. Books turned into movies turned into tv shows.

And it seems fitting. The big bad monster being a vessel for many of the anxieties of our time. Zombies can represent the advent of global diseases. The bird flus and the zikas. They can also represent xenophobia. A relentless onslaught of foreigners that destroy the known culture.

Monsters in culture often act as symbols the experiences of a culture or time era.

So if I were to project outwards, I'll put money on ghosts.

Ephemeral spirits that don't overtake like zombies, but rather just linger. They steal our attention from the corners of our eyes, but not overtly.

Why? It's when I look at the music scene, or our ability to live longer. There'll be an angst there that younger generations will be feeling.

It's crazy now how streaming services expose so much music that was ever recorded. But I can't imagine becoming a budding musician in this world. Where not only are you vying for attention from current musicians like a Beyonce or Kendrick Lamar. But you're also battling the Beatles, Mozart, and Ramones.

It used to be Beatles vs. Rolling Stones. Or Nirvana vs...New Kids on the Block? 

But now it's Beatles vs Q-Tip vs Madonna vs Miley vs Solange vs the Grease soundtrack vs Hamilton Mixtape vs...well, you.

In another lane, the Baby Boomers will be the first generation of old people to get any anti-aging science and tech for the next few decades. And most likely, we'll stretch out the years, but not necessarily improve the median healthiness and ableness. (Just a guess, but I've seen what we call "beta" software these days...) 

So my generation and younger will be greeted by a previous generation that lives longer but not necessarily better. There's already pessimism about the structures set up last century to survive this population boom (social security, Medicare, etc.) Add to that a group of people that may consistently hit 90+ years of life...of which we'll be taking care of...

Ghosts. There's gonna be a lot of movies about ghosts.

Scale and Back-Sliding

I suspect the apex of financial capitalism will look a lot like socialism in the future.

Speaking from a position of access (middle-class in a first-world country), everything seems accessible and purchasable. And with Prime, it all comes within two days to boot. 

Technology has scaled my old general store to contain almost everything from the convenience of my keyboard. 

But a few years ago, I was listening to a story about the Brazilian currency. How it was so unstable that prices could change hourly. It was unwieldy, and made living life a hurdle.

It also made me realize that it was like gas prices for me. Albeit those just change daily at its worst. But that's an acceptable way of life for the most part. On a slower scale are sales at retail stores. Clearance sales to flush out excess inventory, or to entice shoppers to buy.

So what's stopping Amazon from doing that dynamically? Doesn't it know that I'm still on this page hovering over the "Buy" button? Doesn't it know that I just checked a cheaper competitor? 

If it just slashed it 10% right there, wouldn't I just go for it? A little instant sugar to sweeten to make me feel better about it.

And then add a few cameras to my grocery store, change the little paper price labels to digital, add a little face recognition, and voila attach the same coupon to my basket. 

To me, that sounds like the bartering world of old. Five sacks of my grain for your sheep. 

But let's take it farther. Even the keyboard is a slow middleman. Eliminate it. Plug the internet straight into my brain. Be right there when my neurons fire. 

Hungry and craving sugar? Drone delivery me a box of cereal.

Sad over a breakup? Turn on my TV, rent my favorite movie, and just start playing it.

No need to check my credit card. You know every calorie of my productive output. Automatically convert that into experiences and items that I think of in real-time.

I no longer have to check for ownership and transfer of said ownership. I see the world, I express a desire, and the world responds. We all contribute in our own way, and we own all the things we need and want in a cashless and fluid society.

Apathetic Majority

I don't know what to do with this just yet, but I keep returning to this notion of an apathetic majority.

I return to this thought because I was just reminded about the USA's terrible turnout rates for voting. Consistently people say they care about mechanisms that affect their lives, and yet also consistently fail to vote for the candidates and policies that would change things.

There's an apathy that permeates the malaise, and it leave the vocal minority to dictate the outcomes for everyone.

This is a very old-school example of something that lives on in this digital era. That a vocal minority distorts the severity and magnitude of any particular topic. 

But as a relatively new invention, the internet is too immature to go beyond the vocal minority. There's no accounting just yet if the consensus is of the smaller percentage, or if it actually represents the majority.

I suspect that on many issues or topics, the general baseline hovers around apathy. Sure, the key issues are likely big: religion, war, safety, money, etc. But say the release of a new video game? Or two celebrities having a baby? 

I truly wonder if there has been a genuine shift in apathy about that, or if it's still proportional to the population growth over the centuries. 

Big Data, Small Gaps

It seems Big Data is making pop music boring. The feedback loop of elevating popular content that in-turn perpetuates the algorithm to keep promoting the same homogeneity.

Turns out uninspired observations of boring leads to more boring. 

But who's clever enough to take big data to find small gaps? 

To realize that there's a blind spot in the collective consciousness? That there's an untapped mine of permutations? 

Permutation

The journey or the end? Which do you focus on?

The more and more I think about it, the more I find myself in the journey camp. There's something that tickles me to know it's a path not yet taken. That there's a combination we have not seen yet.

Even if that combination is subpar. Chocolate is great. Hot chocolate is also great. Chocolate and lutefisk...not so much. But chocolate in chicken mole is off-the-charts. 

They say there's more combinations for a deck of cards than atoms in the universe. For me, there's a beauty to me every time a new combination is discovered.

Advert Existence

I'm really slow to realizing that late-night talk shows is just a sequence of different people promoting a thing. A movie, or an album, or sometimes just a brand. 

For some reason, my brain was happy to think that it was just talk shows finding interesting people. 

And then recently, it was like "oh, it's advertising." But honestly, I'm already too jaded to really take much offense. 

What's stranger to me lately is reading comment threads (I know, mistake) on tech sites when they review something. Almost every comment is some variation of "man, this site is shill for this brand" or "thanks for the advertisement." 

It made my brain hurt. Because to me, an ad is content that extols the benefits of a product. And a review is content that extols the benefits and flaws of a product. That's enough of a differentiator that I, again, have another thing I never questioned too deeply. 

But my shortcomings is not the point right now. The interesting thing is that is everything an advertisement now? Have we started to curate our digital and physical selves to the point where we ourselves are brands. And thus any speak to associate to any other brand or product an implicit ad?

What does it mean when we use a hashtag that someone else started? 

What's organic versus a curated ad? 

If George Clooney goes on a late night show, but has a genuine conversation, what does that mean to you, me, or everyone? Even if it's Sony Pictures that got him in the situation in the first place?